Opinion: Keanu Reeves is the last pure thing in a world on fire

Keanu Reeves appeared onstage at E3.
Keanu Reeves appeared onstage at E3. Photo credit: Getty

Something magical happened this week.

It was during video gaming's most prestigious event, the annual E3 showcase, where parades of attractive people with expensive teeth stroll onstage and use contemporary phrases like 'live service', 'emergent storytelling' and 'cloud-based solution'.

Everything was ordinary until the end of a trailer for Cyberpunk 2077, an uber-hyped title arriving next year.

Suddenly, a digital Keanu Reeves crouched into frame and said some cool nonsense about players joining him in burning down cities.

John Wick? Of meme fame?  Starring in a video game? How fiendishly droll, cried the audience.

Great. Next trailer now please.

But then, materialising through the light and smoke, not just on screen but physically on stage. The man himself, here to promote the video game he apparently now stars in.   

The audience erupted into bewildered cheers: "We kinda thought you were too famous to do this stuff, but okay! We're here for it!"

Keanu then gave the most wholesomely awkward promotional speech I've ever heard.

He stumbled through lines, seeming only vaguely familiar with the concept of video games but really excited by them, forced to take frequent pauses to let the crowd express their love.  

The peak came when he described Cyberpunk 2077 as 'breathtaking'.

A voice in the audience interrupted, shouting out:

"You're breathtaking!"

Keanu, master of martial arts that he is, caught the compliment in mid-air and hurled it back with twice the force.

"No," said the wonderful man, sweeping an arm to encompass everyone.

"You're breathtaking! You're all breathtaking!"

"Jesus Keanu," I whispered, wiping biscuit crumbs off my chin while watching on my phone 6000 miles away in Auckland.

"I wasn't ready for that."

Hungover in my pyjamas, stewing in last night's shame and munching stale gingernuts, looking breath-borrowing at absolute best, and there Keanu goes validating me from the other side of the planet.

I think the reason people love him so much is that when he says something nice, you actually believe it.

Despite immense wealth and success, he has an awkward earnestness which other celebrities lack. He doesn't seem like he knows what he's doing half the time, and thank God because me neither.

And then, of course, there's all the other stuff to love about him.

He's 54 but still looks like a hard-partying 35-year-old. He speaks bluntly yet beautifully about loss and grief, both of which he's tragically familiar with. He catches the subway and gives up his seat, he donates millions of dollars and takes pay cuts so other actors can get work.

There are a million stories about wholesome Reeves online and sure, you have to take them with a pinch of internet salt. I'm positive he isn't the perfect angel I imagine, but that's okay. The idea is enough.  

The world is on fire, Donald Trump is President, and we don't even agree on the shape of our planet anymore but at least we're united in taking Keanu Reeve's breath away.

Finn Hogan is the host of NerdsPLUS, Newshub's pop-culture discussion podcast.